Trump to visit hurricane-hit Florida as agents probe nursing home deaths

Florida residents clean up as floodwaters from Hurricane Irma recede. (AFP)
Updated 14 September 2017
0

Trump to visit hurricane-hit Florida as agents probe nursing home deaths

MIAMI: President Donald Trump is to visit storm-ravaged Florida on Thursday as authorities investigate the deaths of eight residents of a nursing home that lost power when Hurricane Irma whipped through the region.
The deaths brought the total number of storm-related fatalities in Florida to 20, and illustrate the urgency of restoring electricity to millions of people across the southern state.
Trump and his wife Melania will head to the city of Fort Myers, where they will be briefed on hurricane recovery efforts along with Vice President Mike Pence, the White House said.
The three will then head to nearby Naples to visit with hurricane victims.
Both cities are on Florida’s west coast, far from Trump’s swank Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, on the state’s east coast.
The visit comes as Florida residents who evacuated ahead of Hurricane Irma trickle back home, and as tens of thousands of utility company workers, many from out of state, work around the clock to restore power to millions of customers.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said he was “absolutely heartbroken” on Wednesday to learn of the deaths of the elderly residents at a retirement home in Hollywood, north of Miami.
Around 115 of the nursing home residents were evacuated after a nearby hospital began receiving patients suffering from heat-related problems as there was no air conditioning due to power outages.
Three of those who died were in their nineties, including 99-year-old Albertina Vega. The youngest was 70, according to the Broward County Medical Examiner’s office.
“We believe at this time they (the deaths) may be related to the loss of power in the storm,” Hollywood police chief Tomas Sanchez told a news conference.
Scott vowed to “aggressively demand answers” on how this happened. “This situation is unfathomable,” he fumed in a statement.
The governor said he ordered a probe by state authorities, while Sanchez confirmed a criminal investigation has been launched.
Memorial Regional Hospital began receiving patients early on Wednesday, said Dr. Randy Katz, medical director of the hospital’s emergency department.
“(We) quickly identified some issues inside the facility with fire rescue and immediately evacuated the building,” Katz said.
He said most of the patients admitted to hospital have been treated for respiratory distress, dehydration and heat-related problems.
Florida residents that heeded warnings to evacuate ahead of the storm faced lengthy traffic jams as they returned home after days in shelters or with friends or family.
Irma, which made landfall Sunday morning in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane, had triggered orders for more than six million people to flee to safety, one of the biggest evacuations in US history.
Some Florida Keys residents faced scenes of devastation as police lifted roadblocks on Tuesday and began allowing people to return to the string of islands off the state’s southern coast.
Daniel Drum, 67, already knew how bad it was because he rode out the storm in his two-story house on Cudjoe Key, where Irma made its first US landfall.
On Wednesday, he climbed down from what had been the upper floor of his home on a ladder, wearing only underwear and flip-flops because the wind blew away his clean clothes.
The first floor was a pile of rubble. The walls were gone, and only the pilings holding up the top floor remained.
“I had two baskets full of clean laundry and they just took to the air. And my pants, my phone, my wallet are all gone. As well as everything else I can think of,” he said.
At least a quarter of the homes in the Keys were destroyed, federal emergency management officials said, and 65 percent suffered some damage.
The storm also cut off power, water and sewage to the islands, home to some 70,000 people.
In the Caribbean, French President Emmanuel Macron visited the island of Saint Barts on Wednesday, a day after traveling to the French-Dutch island of Saint Martin.
France, Britain and the Netherlands have been criticized for the pace of relief efforts for their overseas territories ravaged by the storm.
Islanders have complained of a breakdown in law and order and widespread shortages of food, water and electricity.
Touring Saint Martin, Macron was at times jeered by people waiting for aid supplies or hoping to catch flights to France to escape the devastation across the island.
Macron pledged on Saint Barts, population 9,000, that an emergency relief fund for victims would be operational by Monday.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson visited the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla on Wednesday and pledged “absolute commitment” to Britons there.
King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands has also toured Sint Maarten, the Dutch side of the island shared with France, meeting residents on Saba island, and was set to travel to Sint Eustatius, which suffered severe damage.


Pope Francis to create 14 new cardinals in June

Updated 10 min 52 sec ago
0

Pope Francis to create 14 new cardinals in June

  • Among the new cardinals is Louis Raphael I Sako, the Baghdad-based patriarch of Babylonia of the Chaldeans
  • Francis has repeatedly highlighted the plight of Christians persecuted and even slain for their faith in areas where Islamic fundamentalists have targeted them

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis announced on Sunday he has chosen 14 men to be the newest cardinals in the church, among them his chief aide for helping Rome’s homeless and poor, as well as prelates based in Iraq and Pakistan, where Christians are a vulnerable minority.
“I am happy to announce that on June 29, I will hold a consistory (ceremony) to make 14 new cardinals,” Francis said, in remarks to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square.
“The countries of provenance express the universality of the church, which continues to announce the merciful love of God to all men on Earth,” Francis added. Then he revealed his picks to be the latest “princes of the church,” including from Africa, elsewhere in Asia, and South America, as he continues to make the College of Cardinals less European than it had been in centuries past.
Among the new cardinals is Louis Raphael I Sako, the Baghdad-based patriarch of Babylonia of the Chaldeans. Also to be made cardinal is Joseph Coutts, archbishop of Karachi, Pakistan.
Francis has repeatedly highlighted the plight of Christians persecuted and even slain for their faith in areas where Islamic fundamentalists have targeted them.
Two top Vatican officials will also receive the honor of joining churchmen who vote for new popes in secret conclaves. They are Spanish Monsignor Luis Ladaria, who heads the Holy See’s powerful office in charge of ensuring doctrinal orthodoxy, and, like the pope, is a Jesuit; and Italian Monsignor Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the No. 2 in the influential secretariat of state office. Becciu is also special delegate to the recently troubled Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
Another Italian to be made cardinal is a Rome vicar general, Monsignor Angelo De Donatis. The pope, while leader of the entire Roman Catholic church, also serves as Rome’s top bishop.
Francis’ choice of Monsignor Konrad Krajewski, a good-natured Pole who personally has handed out sleeping bags to homeless on frigid Roman nights and driven poor people to seaside day trips paid for by the Vatican, reflects the pontiff’s determination to make the Catholic Church known for its attention to those on life’s margins.
Others tapped to be cardinals include: Monsignor Antonio dos Santos Marto, bishop of Fatima, Portugal; Monsignor Pedro Barreto, archbishop of Huancayo, Peru; Monsignor Desire Tsarahazana, archbishop of Toamasina, Madagascar; Monsignor Thomas Aquinas Manyo, archbishop of Osaka, Japan; and Monsignor Giuseppe Petrocchi, archbishop of L’Aquila, the Italian mountain town still struggling to recover from an earthquake in 2009.
Francis cited three other churchmen he said he chose because “they have distinguished themselves for their service to the church.”
They are Emeritus Archbishop of Xalapa, Mexico, Sergio Obeso Rivera; Monsignor Toribio Ticona Porco, a prelate from Corocoro, Bolivia; and a Spanish priest, Aquilino Bocos Merino. The three are all over 80, so will not be eligible to vote for the next pope.